Stewart confirms Preece will get "deserved" start
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze Head Coach has confirmed that British netminder Brython Preece will get a “well deserved” start this weekend as his side wrap up their Challenge Cup campaign against the Guildford Flames at the Skydome Arena (7pm).
Canadian Kevin Nastiuk will return to the line-up on Sunday as Blaze travel to Murrayfield to take on the Edinburgh Capitals in the Elite League (6pm).
Despite hopes of qualification to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals now over, following a single point weekend in the Elite League, Stewart says he is looking for a reaction from his players on home ice.
“This weekend is a very big for us. We played well enough to win both games last weekend, but we found a way to give both games away through key errors at key moments. Now we need to bounce back and right that. The Guildford game means nothing for both teams as far as points are concerned, but it is an important game for us to improve in areas that we need to get better in. We are also at home, and putting in the work at home is never optional.”
Preece (20), from Newport, Wales made a strong impression in pre-season after joining the club from the Utah Outliers in the Western States Hockey League. Gaining over 25 minutes in Challenge Cup action previously, and also 6 in Cardiff, the side his junior career began with, Stewart is backing the 6’5” netminder to continue his strong progression in competitive action against the Flames.
“Brython is a great kid and comes to work every day. A back-up role is never easy. Guys like Preece take many shots during practice and are usually the ones to stick around afterwards when teammates want extra work. In the few games he has played (pre-season included), I think he has showed a lot of maturity for stepping up to this level for the first time. He’s a big kid and very composed for his age. We feel getting quality shots off Elite League quality players has helped him improve and I am excited to see him play on Saturday!”
Coventry currently sit in seventh place of the Elite League table with 18 points from the 16 games played. Despite the disappointment of a 5-4 away overtime defeat to Milton Keynes and 3-4 home loss to Fife Flyers last time out, with the gap just 4 points to second place and 6 from the top, Stewart insists although the gap isn't a large one, he warns improvement is necessary if the club are to climb the table and compete for honors.
“Nobody is more frustrated about losing both games last weekend than we are, and particularly in the fashion that we did. In saying that, we have still picked up 14 of our last 20 points in the league and have put ourselves right in the mix.
“Five-on-five we are dominating teams and playing good hockey. If we can improve the areas we need to get better, it will make the difference between us being a mid-table team or battling for a playoff spot, to being a contender which is what we believe we can be.”